Somehow I had become attached to an organisation of outlaws, outcasts, and cowboys. Their desert centre of operations could only be accessed by going to a nearby hotel and then sneaking out of it through the built-in train station. The base itself consisted of six large wrecked ships standing in the desert at the terminal of a canal that led out toward the horizon.
While I was waiting in the hotel, one of the existing members of the organisation showed me a black and white film from their personal collection, which I later described as “Every photograph, film, and tape recording of Isaac Asimov ever made.” This film showed Asimov going down a large stone stairwell with an entourage of men in suits. He was accosted by a man who looked kind of like Malcolm X, who began to ask Asimov a series of penetrating questions on his position on the Civil Rights movement. The last question on the film was a change of tack “Do you find black men threatening?”. Asimov did not reply on record. What I found fascinating was the way that anger and resentment at the question percolated into his face without it really physically changing.
Later, we took a hike outside the hotel. We found that though the outlaw base was supposed to be a secret, it could be plainly seen from an artificial-looking ridge built over the train station that separated the hotel and the base. I attempted to explain the Isaac Asimov event to a fat man who appeared for no reason , but he didn’t seem to understand.
Finally it was time to join the outlaw base. Just as we were crossing the last platform of the train station, we were captured by unconvincing Spanish ninjas. Their concession to stealth was wearing black polo shirts and chinos. They forced us to sit on chairs made from a fence, then stood around us. I cursed one of them fluently and at length.
Suddenly I was sitting down to breakfast in a wood-frame house. It was as if it had all been a dream. But I still had the outlaw tattoo
* * *
I woke. No tattoo.